Battleground Virginia: Defense cuts loom large in key US Senate race
In their last debate in the Virginia Senate race, George Allen and Tim Kaine clashed over how to avoid some $55 billion in mandated defense cuts set to begin Jan. 1. Allen would take more from social programs; Kaine would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
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Additionally, Allen argued that Kaine was using the potential job loss as leverage to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on incomes over $500,000. Kaine has proposed offsetting part of the cost of the sequester by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for such households.Skip to next paragraph
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"I think it is very wrong to be using the 200,000 men and women in Virginia whose jobs are threatened by this sequestration deal that I have opposed.... They should not be used as a political bargaining chip to be used to raise taxes on job creators and small businesses."
Kaine lit into Allen for any suggestion that Kaine, the father of a newly minted US Marine officer, would use military spending as a negotiating tactic.
"George, you just started your answer by saying I'm trying to hold the military hostage to raise taxes – you and I are both fathers, and this one is very personal to me. I have a son who has just started a career in the military. I will not do things that will hurt the troops or hurt defense," Kaine said.
The question of "holding hostage" was one Kaine seized on, using it to hammer Allen for what has been a long-running subtext of Kaine's critique of his Republican opponent: Not only are his policies lacking balance in the form of some taxes and some spending cuts, Kaine implies, but Allen himself is prone to divisive rhetoric that won't help get things done in Congress.
"Saying that somebody is going to hold the military hostage is like saying that 'Oh, someone is anti-Virginia if they support the president of the United States.' It's exactly the kind of rhetoric that we need less of, not more of, in Washington," Kaine said. He also noted the original sequestration bill had GOP support from House Speaker John Boehner, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), and the US Chamber of Commerce, a frequent backer of Republicans.
"We were trying to avoid a fiscal collapse, but George Allen and a few other people stood outside, shook their fists, and said, 'We don't support a compromise,' " Kaine said. "We can avoid these defense cuts, but we can only avoid them with a compromise."
Kaine laid out a plan that he said would reduce the amount of cuts needed to offset the sequester by about 75 percent. It included the expiration of tax cuts for those making over $500,000 a year , the end of subsidies to large oil companies, and a policy change to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies on prices for prescription drugs.
Allen and Kaine each painted himself as a bipartisan solution-seeker, with Kaine pointing to his work with President George W. Bush and Allen referencing a gubernatorial record that included a trio of reforms in education, parole, and welfare with a Democratic-controlled legislature.
"Each of them have a similar obstacle to overcome: their recent past," says Bob Holsworth, a Virginia political analyst who moderated a previous debate between the two candidates. "Allen has to overcome the fact that he spent six years in the Senate and was not known as a [bipartisan] member.... And Kaine, the apostle of bipartisanship, just finished a stint as the head of the Democratic National Committee, as partisan-in-chief."